If your small business has a physical footprint of any kind, you will need to accept payments. You will need to be able to accept credit cards, store cash, process gift cards, and more. That’s where your POS system comes in. Your POS, or point of sale, is the physical device and software used to process your company’s transactions. Several POS systems are available for small businesses, and you’ll need to understand which POS systems are best in which situations to maximize the benefits of the system you select.
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What is a POS?
A POS (Point Of Sale) system is the device and/or software you use to process k for your company. Every point of sale system is different, and they can be as simple or complex as you’d like. A mason jar full of nickels at a child’s lemonade stand is, technically, a point-of-sale system.
But modern POS systems for today’s small retail businesses have various extra functionalities well past cash storage and credit card processing. Software integrations and multiple hardware options are reasonably common in today’s leading POS systems. They can include card readers and built-in inventory management. They’re compatible with your cell phone, an iPad, or a cash register. The POS features you’re looking for and the industry your company operates in will determine which is best, so let’s start by thinking about the different features that might be available for your business needs.
Which POS Features are Available?
Your specific company will have a different idea of the best point of sale system than any other company. Specific systems are fantastic for restaurants but awful for dance studios. Some features are essential for an appointment-based industry like barbers but useless for landscapers. As you read through some of the available features in the point-of-sale industry, consider how these features would fit in with your company.
Most retail stores also sell their products online. So your point of sale software will need to be closely integrated with your company’s online payment processor. That synergy will help with inventory tracking, analytics, and generally keep the whole company on the same page.
Most point-of-sale systems offer direct, in-house payment processing. You pay company X for your point-of-sale system, company X handles your credit card payments. But this isn’t always the case. You may need to look elsewhere for a payment processor with some companies and systems. Often, going with a third party can be a bit cheaper in processing fees, but you’ll need to ensure that the third party is compatible with your POS. It’s also just simpler to have these services under one roof.
Loyalty Programs and Gift Cards
On top of just handling payments, the best point-of-service systems can also help handle customer management. They’re able to track loyalty programs popular with restaurants and coffee shops that encourage customers to return.
In addition, most POS systems can issue and track gift cards, which can be very helpful tools for building new and repeat business. The best POS systems can issue gift cards, track their balances, and seamlessly accept them as payment in-store and in your online store.
Small business owners have a ton going on running their businesses. The best POS systems are able to take some work off of your plate: you could integrate accounting software like Quickbooks in order to make things easier at tax time, you could keep track of your inventory, or even use your POS’s integration to guide staffing at peak hours.
Your repeat customers and marketing strategy both benefit from customer loyalty programs. A POS system with a customer account feature can show what your most loyal customers are buying and when they’re buying it and can help you be mainly targeted in your marketing.
Your POS system should be able to keep track of how much inventory you’ve got and when you’ll need more. It should also be able to keep track of that inventory after sales, both online and in-store.
No matter which POS system you choose to use, you’ll likely face a time when you need to contact your provider for customer service. Different companies use different forms of customer service. Some have representatives on standby at all hours, some have hours with only emergency contact, and more.
Depending on your industry, keeping track of your employees’ interactions with your POS system can be important. The best POS systems can make employee management a cinch. Are tips going to the correct people if you run a restaurant or bar? If your wages depend on commission, can you see which staff members generate the most sales? The best point-of-sale systems make staff management choices easy.
Your POS system should be able to use automation to generate detailed and helpful reports. You should be able to see at a glance when your business is at its busiest, which products are doing better than others, and what percentage of website visitors are making purchases. Not only should you be able to access this data, but it should also be readily accessible, intuitive, and customizable based on the data your specific company needs.
On top of everything else, you should consider the price of your POS system. Is there a specific feature you’re looking for that you can get on the cheap with one POS solution but costs hundreds at another? Are you a single-handed startup looking to keep everything as inexpensive as possible? The price structure of your POS system is as important a factor as the other features.
If you’re running a brick-and-mortar store in addition to online ordering, you’re going to need some hardware. The best POS systems not only integrate hardware – they include them. Depending again on your specific industry, you will need some or all of a tablet (typically an Apple iPad), a card reader, a cash management system, receipt printers, or barcode scanners. If you’re operating a restaurant or cafe, you’ll need a restaurant POS that allows for kitchen displays or a kitchen printer, and some businesses may require scales that easily convert weight to price.
What are the Leading POS Systems?
Now that you know exactly what you’re looking for in your retail POS system, you can look around the marketplace and determine which system is best for your specific business.
Square POS is one of the industry’s leaders, which is apparent. When it comes to ease of use and versatility among nearly any type of business, Square is an excellent solution.
Square has separate verticals for its POS system, allowing for industry specialization. They, of course, have a general POS software that’s just as helpful for a yoga studio as it is for a laundromat. It comes with a free credit card reader, which allows for contactless payments, and a handy mobile app to ensure you’re able to see data and make adjustments no matter where you are.
On top of the simplicity and low cost, Square offers several industry-specific feature sets. Their food-service vertical is one of the best restaurant POS systems on the market, with simple kitchen integration, menu customization features and tableside contactless payments. They also offer a specialized version for retail stores, where you’ll pay extra for more inventory management features, and even a version of their POS for appointment-based business, so your barbershop is always running on time, paid in full, and its payments are accepted in real-time.
As for pricing, Square can be completely free to set up and use, and payment only begins once you’re processing transactions – they take 2.6% of each transaction, plus a dime. The monthly subscriptions get more expensive as your account gets more specialized and adds more features. You’ll also pay a bit more for more advanced hardware. A Square cash register, for example, runs about $800.
The Bottom Line: if you’re looking for industry-leading customer support, integrations with industry leaders, and a variety of specializations from food trucks to hairdressers, Square is a fantastic option.
Clover is another all-industry winner. The company prides itself on its sleek, simple hardware and hundreds of available add-ons. Clover’s hardware is indeed extensive and helpful. Self-service kiosks are available to simplify things in your store, along with a free plan that allows you to accept online debit and credit card transactions.
The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a versatile checkout station and payment processor with a wide variety of hardware options and minimal setup required, Clover could be a helpful choice.
The toast was explicitly designed with the restaurant industry in mind and it’s with restaurants that it really shines. Toast’s packages and pricing plans are all built around restaurants of varying sizes, business levels, and ages. Their starter kits, for example, come with a POS terminal, a contactless card reader, a router, and customer support 24 hours a day.
Toast offers numerous other features helpful for restaurants, from cash drawers to a guest-facing display. They offer kitchen printers, drive-thru points of sale, and more. There are integrations with third-party services like OpenTable as well.
Finally, Toast offers assistance with building an online ordering and delivery system built right in. It’s the sort of integration that’s vital for restaurants specifically. Unfortunately, it should also be noted that Toast is only compatible with Android devices.
Toast’s pricing ranges from $0 per month and a 2.99% transaction fee to monthly payments and cashes down in exchange for lower transaction fees. Hardware costs money as well, outside of the terminal, payment device, and router mentioned earlier.
The Bottom Line: if you’re a restaurant owner looking for a point-of-sale system handmade for your industry, check out Toast.
Priced at 2.3% of every transaction, GoDaddy is one of the least expensive options for in-person payment transaction fees. For hardware, GoDaddy offers two options. There’s a small card reader that functions as a mobile POS available for $49 and a terminal for $249. There’s a mobile app you’ll use to power the card reader, and the system requires that payment processing is done through GoDaddy’s in-house system.
If you’re also looking to build up your company’s website, using GoDaddy as an all-in-one platform can be an intelligent choice. The company was initially built on selling domain names and other web hosting services, so you can be sure that paying a monthly fee to GoDaddy means synchronizing your website, e-commerce, and brick-and-mortar POS.
The Bottom Line: a good option if you’re just starting up and want to make sure that your POS and internet presence are a functional match.
You’re likely already familiar with Shopify if you’re selling products online. If you’re already using it, then adding Shopify POS might be a smart way to integrate an existing service with a new one. Shopify POS is easy to use right along with the company’s e-commerce platform, and when you select the higher tiers of subscription, there are some very helpful additional features. For example, Shopify can email a customer who’s left the site with items in their shopping carts.
Shopify’s also fantastic when it comes to customer profiles. If you want to ensure that your most loyal customers are receiving benefits and marketing to draw them back into your store, Shopify’s able to generate the data you need. You’ll be able to send out email marketing, discounts, and other benefits directly to the customers most likely to use them.
Pricing revolves around your Shopify plan, which you’ll need if you want to use their POS. With a Shopify POS Lite membership, you’ll only pay 2.4% per transaction in person. However, for $89 per month, you’ll receive a terminal, unlimited registers, and several advanced analytic reports and smart inventory management.
The Bottom Line: if you’re running a retail location and want a simple and synchronized online presence, Shopify might be the move.
How to Choose a POS System?
You, as a small business owner, must decide which small business POS systems fit your company best. What matters to your business? What features are essential, and which can be left by the wayside? How much are you willing to spend? Your answers to these questions and others can lead you directly to the best option, whether it’s one of the POS systems discussed above or one that isn’t. Regardless, making sure that your POS is maximally effective for your company can lead to new and more excellent sales, competent staffing and inventory, and a simpler experience as a small business owner.